SIGNIFICANT SIGNS OF A CHANGING SEASON…

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Soft petals of angel fluff. Slippery glass underneath. Nature’s trap. Zip! Swish! Swirl! Thud! Ouch! E R in a hurry! Nice goose-egg, but no concussion! Whew! How many have fallen for this painful icy trick the past month? Walk like a penguin? It may work sometimes, but not always.

Speaking of goose eggs. A hen goose belonging to poultry fancier Vern Bienfang presented him with an ivory present on February 27th, the earliest his waterfowl have begun laying in Vern’s long history of raising water birds! The egg was a frozen missile of course, having lain snowbound for a few hours in less than twenty-degree weather. The question remains, “Why so early before the hallowed spring season begins?” Often, tame geese and ducks mate and lay eggs when snow melt has puddled, but they aren’t waiting at Vern’s place. Geese are sensitive creatures, unless you’re a stranger who upsets their routine. They form an alarm system on a farm, can be heard cackling for blocks, and dispatch small predators, yet are as friendly as a family dog if you treasure them as Vern does. To grasp a concept of egg size, a photo is attached to this article, with a contrast/comparison ‘twixt’ a hen and goose egg; the goose egg being three and a quarter inches long, and standing over two inches thick.

Down the road from Vern’s live Mary and Steve Nesgoda. The Nesgodas had seven young Toulouse geese they kept over the winter, but Sunday the 1st of March, they discovered a goose was missing! Raiders from the sky? No! Hiding her nest in a special spot in a barn, one of the hens was discovered sitting on FOUR goose eggs. What’s with this? Readers are invited to chime in on, “Why are the geese laying eggs in February, up to now, a cold and snowy month without pools of water?”

While trudging through the woodland the last week in February, a large patch of sawdust and wood chips was noted. Approaching the area cautiously, one espied many deer hoofprints in the snow. What were the hoofed mammals apparently relishing? Glancing upward, one discovered five fresh pileated woodpecker dining holes in a Black Cherry tree. For many years we’ve walked under and around this tree without paying attention to its species, and now that it’s dying, as evidenced by the pileated woodpecker cavities, we feel sad about it. The tree was present, but unrecognized. May we compare that to the people we walk around or away from? What a loss! The question of the deer eating the sawdust or tree chips remains unanswered. Black cherry wood is treasured by some as much as walnut. The question remains, “What did the deer find palatable in the chips and sawdust?”

Two wonderful mysteries of the week. A garter snake was discovered in an ‘Indy’ reader’s home the week of February 27-28th. Yes, a real live snake against the north wall in a basement surprised the home’s occupant. We have the photos, but we’ll lose a reader if we publish them. The snake, almost three feet in length either 1) awakened due to hunger pangs or 2) is part of a bundle or den of reptiles waiting for spring to arrive.

Next, a surprise at the woodland bird feeder. Frances, faithful Ford Focus nearing 200,000 miles, most of them ‘bird miles,’ can attest to the missus sitting patiently (and chillyingly) in our woodland shack getting ‘snaps’ of chickadees, juncos woodpeckers and the like. Her patience has paid off in the form of a flock of purple finches, birds we’ve not encountered in winter for perhaps three years! There they were in their full glory, spring plumage ready to burst. Along comes this rather nondescript sparrow, all by its lonesome, differing from all the other sparrow-like seed eaters. Our guess was Song Sparrow which would certainly be an unexpected guest. Rather than confuse readers with the incorrect tag, we consulted Dr. Chad Heins, famed birder from Bethany College in Mankato. Bless him, Chad responded thusly: “This is a winter-plumaged overwintering Harris’s Sparrow. They are ‘uncommon’ in the Minnesota River Valley in winter, but I do have records of them.” Chad went on to say that he and his coworkers have observed Common and Hooded Mergansers, Goldeneye, Black ducks, Tundra and Trumpeter swans. Next thing one knows, those waterfowl will be on open water on area ponds and lakes.

Henderson’s Dave Kolter sent a note stating that Sunday the 1st day of March was a “Great day to be alive,” with cardinals calling, crows loud and boisterous, nine flocks of Canada geese, and other seasonal signs. He mentioned also that small streams to the river are trickling, and the mild temperatures are melting dirty snowbanks. These are welcome sights and sounds for winter-weary locals. The robin roost in LeSueur produced 274 robins one pre-evening this week, and 190 another day just as the sun set. Thus now, what to watch for? Hordes of cedar waxwings should soon arrive in Henderson and LeSueur area to gobble the flowering crab fruits before European starlings polish them off! Speak up! What seasonal phenomena are you experiencing?